Susan Greene of the Colorado Independent reports that the DOJ has begun an investigation into the city of Denver‘s failure to provide ASL interpreters for Deaf inmates. Denver commonly refers to itself as an accessible city, yet it is being cited for repetitive violations of the ADA.
In a suit filed by Major Jon Michael Scott, who spent time in Denver jails on numerous occasions since 2006, the city is claimed to have violated his civil rights by refusing to provide him communication with COs and other law enforcement. Authorities knew of Scott’s Deafness, yet during bookings, classifications and medical interviews, no interpreters were present. Denver does maintain at least one full time interpreter on payroll, and subcontracts to several others.
The city has already fought a court battle against 3 other plaintiffs in another case. In fact, in that case, an inmate – Shawn Vigil – hanged himself in 2005. Vigil had been in custody for 1 month, and although the authorities knew of his deafness, they failed to realize that he was also functionally illiterate. Illiteracy being a common problem amongst the Deaf, Vigil was unable to understand the intake form that would have enabled him accommodations. In 2010, Denver settled and agreed to pay just under 700,000 dollars to Vigil’s mother, and the other two plaintiffs. After all is said and done, and before taxes, Vigil’s mother will receive about 1/7 of that figure.
Our own Jean F. Andrews is quoted in the original article:
Jean Andrews, a professor of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education at Lamar University in Texas, says hearing impairment is one of the least-detected disabilities. If deaf people have a little bit of speech, lip-reading or note-writing ability, they’re often presumed to be able to get by.
“That’s fine if they’re ordering a pizza. But it’s complicated at critical junctures such as jail settings when you’re being booked, classified and medically evaluated,” she says.
As Andrews tells it, courts throughout the country “seem to get it” that deaf people need sign-language interpreters in courtrooms. Scott, for example, got the interpretation services he needed when appearing before a judge.
But behind the scenes, Andrews says, the ADA goes ignored all too often by law enforcers and jails.
Studies show that the average reading level for an imprisoned deaf person is 3rd or 4th grade. This makes it tough for some inmates to understand handbooks explaining the rules of their incarceration. Jail environments present special challenges because sounds – guards shouting cues and buzzers signaling meal times or bed times, for example – are crucial. An inability to hear the clang of a metal door or the signal for a lockdown can mean write-ups or worse for a deaf prisoner. Deafness can create vulnerabilities to rape and violence.
“They don’t have anyone there to tell their side of the story. They’re vulnerable to being preyed upon. They’re vulnerable to suicide. A deaf inmate has no one to talk to and no one to answer any questions. It’s like throwing us into a jail in an Arabic country and expecting us to understand what’s going on,” Andrews says. “The reality is that jail can be a horror for deaf inmates.”
To see the original piece, go to the Colorado Independent.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
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